Beautiful lakefront color houses,Watkins Glen, New York. Image credit PQK via Shutterstock

7 Most Charming Finger Lake Towns In New York

The 11 Finger Lakes configuration between Canada and New York are more than a set of lakes, but vast water bodies among a vibrant natural landscape of rolling hills and state parks. Blessed with scenic trails that lead to breathtaking waterfalls, the area is roaming with wildlife. The lakeside towns in the region boast a unique character that charms with plenty of attractions and quick access to bountiful sightseeing and waterside recreation galore.


Historic Canandaigua Lake Boathouses, New York
Historic Canandaigua Lake Boathouses, New York. Image credit PQK via Shutterstock

The atmospheric town on the namesake Finger Lake close to Rochester calls to pack up hiking boots for scenic trails that are also great for cycling. The compact landscape makes it easy to access nature from downtown and saves precious vacation time for where it matters. Be sure to stop by the Canandaigua City Pier and check out a couple of the wineries on the Canandaigua Wine Trail. There are also tons of parks and preserves with wildlife sightings such as Kershaw Park.

Canandaigua is a perfect base for year-round natural pursuits such as skiing down Bristol Mountain, or kayaking and canoeing the vast lake. The town center's unique character comes through an eclectic selection of shops in between the inevitable souvenir huts for unique gift finds. There are award-winning restaurants of all styles and cuisines, while the Sutherland House B&B rocks an extravagant exterior for a Victorian-era-inspired stay. Beer fans enjoy a choice between Twisted Rail Brewing, Peacemaker Brewing, or the Star Cider for a sparkling treat.


Colorful vineyard view near Hammondsport New York
Colorful vineyard view near Hammondsport New York. Image credit AlphieQ via Shutterstock

Hammondsport spreads along the southern shore of the Y-shaped Keuka Finger Lake, one of the most scenically-rewarding, set-amidst rolling hills. The town of barely 600, welcomes tourists with a serene landscape and tons of attractions to enjoy a peaceful respite. The downtown center houses art galleries, cute cafes, and stores for all tastes. While the Black Sheep Inn just to the west of town offers a convenient stay with an impressive all-vegan menu and unique rooms in 19th-century style, octagonal exterior.

There are a number of breweries and seven wineries in town, such as the Pleasant Valley Wine Company, first in the Finger Lakes region in 1860, serving wine made from succulent Catawba grapes. The Bully Hill Vineyards hosts an onsite wine museum dedicated to Greyton H. Taylor with lessons on winemaking and tastings of the finest samples and local vintages to solidify the knowledge. The third-largest Finger Lake is a dream come true for active water fans with calm waters for kayaking and paddle boarding.


View of Jump Off Scenic Point at Gannett Hill in Ontario County Park in Naples, New York
Jump Off Scenic Point at Gannett Hill in Ontario County Park in Naples, New York. Image credit Ritu Manoj Jethani via Shutterstock

Naples is one of the most picturesque towns in the region with a historical center full of architecture in a natural embrace. Known as the Grape Pie Capital of the World, there are vast orchards around and easy access to the Honeoye and Canandaigua Lakes for idyllic waterside respite or refreshing hikes just minutes away. The vast food scene in the small townscape includes the famed Roots Cafe, a community-driven restaurant and local must-visit for "only in Naples" culture and atmosphere, followed by a stop at the Inspire Moore Winery.

One of the region's most-scenic trails leads to the beautiful waterfall within Grimes Glen Park, and many more around. The West Hill Preserve along The Finger Lakes Trail is an easy hike through a forested area with many educational discoveries. After a day out, there are countless cafes to try the famous grape pie or bring one back to share with friends over memories of the idyllic town. Naples' beloved Bristol Valley Theater boasts five stars and a central location for an atmospheric evening watching professional theatrical productions.


Owego is a small village in New York State, located along the Susquehanna River
Owego is a small village in New York State, located along the Susquehanna River. Image credit JWCohen via Shutterstock

Owego is among the most idyllic towns on the Finger Lakes with a charming village along the Susquehanna River. It is a favorite road-trip stop with cute cafes and antique shops such as the well-known Early Owego Antique Center on Lake Street, and places to eat and drink around. The whimsical landscape offers the most-scenic pursuits on a getaway from the city such as the wondrous River Walk and sightseeing the beautiful bridge leading into town. 

Summertime brings about popular events such as the beloved Owego Strawberry Festival in June at the Historic Owego Marketplace to immerse in culture amidst various sighs and pursuits. For nature lovers, nothing beats the serene Tioga Gardens with eleven refreshing greenhouses for peaceful strolls. Tourists immensely enjoy the historic Belva Lockwood Inn, dedicated to a former resident and abolitionist. She lived in the gorgeous 1815-built estate while fighting for women's rights all her life in the 19th century. Belva Lockwood also ran twice for president.

Seneca Falls

View of the First Presbyterian Church of Seneca Falls
View of the First Presbyterian Church of Seneca Falls. Image credit debra millet via Shutterstock

Another town with rich women’s history is home to the first Women’s Rights Convention, held in 1848 at the Wesleyan Chapel, as well as the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. The chapel hosted many more political events of the century, while its wonderful front lawn, dedicated to signees of the Declaration of Sentiments has a forever fountain with names and passage engravings. The charming town on the western edge of the grand Cayuga Lake and through-running scenic Cayuga-Seneca canal offers plenty of amenities with views.

One can take marvelous strolls along the historical canal, hit the grand shopping scene, and sit down for a fantastic meal at one of the many restaurants for a waterside dinner experience. The Gould Hotel in the heart is a top choice to stay in over a century-old building with a modern-elegant interior and décor that is reminiscent of the Great Gatsby era. Seneca Falls offers a beautiful landscape to set the base with grape orchards around for wine aficionados. There are the nearby Seneca and Keuka wine trails west of town, and more wineries south of town around the Cayuga Lake.


Late afternoon aerial autumn image of the area surrounding the Village of Trumansburg, New York
Late afternoon aerial autumn image of the area surrounding the Village of Trumansburg, New York. Image credit SEALANDSKYPHOTO via Shutterstock

The suburban town minutes out of Ithaca is a popular stop on a road trip to the Taughannock State Park with the renowned Taughannock Falls. While driving through the striking landscape, one must linger for stellar lakefront views and the crown jewel of the renowned 215-foot cascade with a magnificent gorge. One of the most popular waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region offers awe-inspiring vistas from the top, hiking, and swimming in the pools. The hidden location inland between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes inspires serene natural hikes and relaxation along the shores, where worries seep away.

Trumansburg is a lively community with vibrant festivals and events within easy lake access. The charming Main Street is strewn with commerce for all tastes and great craft beer spots such as Garret’s Brewing. Be sure to sample the fine, farm-to-table cuisine at the Hazelnut Kitchen, and visit the summertime concerts and performances at the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance. The family-friendly event comprises dance and music workshops, vendors, and an effervescent "happiness parade" where attendees intermingle with stilt walkers, musicians, and jugglers.

Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen State Park waterfall canyon in Upstate New York
Watkins Glen State Park waterfall canyon in Upstate New York. Image credit Mihai_Andritoiu via Shutterstock

Watkins Glen is the regional destination for many world-famed attractions with 19 enchanting waterfalls to explore on a hike along gorgeous green and cobbled pathways. The 1.5-mile Gorge Trail traverses scenic bridges through a glen with magical cascading waterfalls of the Watkins Glen State Park. Nearby there is also the gorgeous Shequaga waterfall painted by the artistically-inclined future King of France. Louis Philippe recreated the scenery in 1820, upon visiting the region and becoming engrossed in the waterfall.

The nearby Havana Glen Park offers a creekside that ends at the falls, and more scenic waterfalls throughout the region for a thematic hike, including Deckerton Falls, Eagle Cliff Falls, Aunt Sarah Falls on route 14, and Hector Falls on route 414. The town is host to the US-famous Watkins Glen International road racing track, while mid-summer brings about the Finger Lakes Wine Festival. There are plenty of places to dine along the atmospheric Franklin Street with easy access to the harbor for breathtaking views of Seneca Lake from its southern shore.

The Finger Lakes region with year-round fine weather is a hotspot for the best lakeside towns, rich wine culture, and scenic outings of various pursuits. These towns will inspire you with natural vistas and streets full of small-town charm and architecture on a getaway from the city. Despite being a highly-demanded destination in the US, the region boasts modern amenities and comforts for all budgets and styles to immerse in the quintessential atmosphere that will imprint forever and turn newcomers into die-hard fans of the locale.

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